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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. D. Fox   [25 March 1843]

Down. Bromley Kent


My dear Fox

I was very glad to get your letter some six weeks since, but grieved to the heart at its contents. Your’s does indeed seem at present a hopeless case— I should have thought that time inevitably would have done you more good, than it seems to have done— I had hoped (for experience I have none) that the mind wd have refused to dwell so long & so intently on any object, although the most cherished one— Strong affections, have always appeared to me, the most noble part of a man’s character & the absence of them an irreparable failure; you ought to console yourself with thinking that your grief is the necessary price for having been born with (for I am convinced they are not to be acquired) such feelings— But I am writing away without really being able to put myself in your position—you have my sincerest sympathy & respect in your sorrow—I can only hope that the intensity of your grief may shorten (however little you may think it possible) their duration.—1

I will tell you all the trifling particulars about myself, that I can think of.— we are now exceedingly busy, with the first brick laid down yesterday to an addition to our house; with this, with almost making a new kitchen garden & sundry other projected schemes, my days are very full. I find all this very bad for geology—but I am very slowly progressing with a vol: or rather pamphlet on the Volcanic islands, wh we visited; I manage only a couple of hours per day, & that not very regularly.— It is up-hill work, writing books, which cost money in publishing & which are not read even by geologists.— I forget whether I ever described this place: it is a good, very ugly house with 18 acres; situated on a chalk-flat, 560 ft above sea— There are peeps of far-distant country & the scenery is moderately pretty; its chief merit is its extreme rurality; I think I was never in a more perfectly quiet country: Three miles South of us the great chalk escarpment quite cuts us off from the low country of Kent, & between us & the escarpment, there is not a village or gents: house, but only great woods & arable fields (the latter in sadly preponderant numbers), so that we are absolutely at extreme verge of world.— The whole country is intersected by foot-paths; but the surface over the chalk is clayey & sticky, which is worst feature in our purchase.— The dingles & banks often remind me of Cambridgeshire & walking with you to Cherry Hinton, & other places, though the general aspect of the country is very different. I was looking over my arranged cabinet (the only remnant, I have preserved of all my English insects) & was admiring Panagæus crux major: it is curious the vivid manner in which this insect always calls up my mind, your appearance, with little Fan trotting after, when I was first introduced to you— Those entomological days were very pleasant ones—

I occasionally hear from Henslow: he is absorbed at present with making the Suffolk farmers experimenters in agricultural chemistry, & has commenced by doing wonders in exciting their zealous cooperation. He seems very busy with parish concerns—

We are all well here—that is essentially so for Emma is as bad as she usually is in her present state.—2 I am very much stronger corporeally, but am b⁠⟨⁠ut⁠⟩⁠ little better in being able to stand mental fatigue or rather excitement, so that I cannot dine out or receive visitors, except relations with whom I can pass some time after dinner in silence.

Farewell my dear Fox with my best wishes.— Ever yours | C. Darwin


Fox’s wife Harriet had died on 19 March 1842.
Henrietta Emma Darwin was born 25 September 1843.


Sympathises with WDF’s persisting grief.

Describes Down House and additions being built, which interfere with Geology [of "Beagle"].

Bodily health is improved, but cannot stand mental excitement.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Darwin Fox
Sent from
Source of text
Christ’s College Library, Cambridge (MS 53 Fox 66)
Physical description
ALS 6pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 665,” accessed on 23 May 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 2